SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

MOZART: Sonata in D Major for Piano and Violin KV 306/300l; Sonata in E Minor for Piano and Violin KV 304/300c; Sonata in G Major for Piano and Violin KV 379/373a – Alexandra Nepomnyashchaya, pianoforte / Sergei Filchenko, violin – Caro Mitis

If you normally shy away from the fortepiano, a recording such as this might just change your mind. Today, it’s a brave new world for performances on authentic instrument.

Published on July 14, 2010

MOZART: Sonata in D Major for Piano and Violin KV 306/300l; Sonata in E Minor for Piano and Violin KV 304/300c; Sonata in G Major for Piano and Violin KV 379/373a – Alexandra Nepomnyashchaya, pianoforte / Sergei Filchenko, violin – Caro Mitis

MOZART: Sonata in D Major for Piano and Violin KV 306/300l; Sonata in E Minor for Piano and Violin KV 304/300c; Sonata in G Major for Piano and Violin KV 379/373a – Alexandra Nepomnyashchaya, pianoforte / Sergei Filchenko, violin – Caro Mitis, multichannel SACD CM 0042007 [Distr. by Albany], 65:16 ****:

If you normally shy away from the fortepiano, a recording such as this might just change your mind. Today, it’s a brave new world for performances on authentic instrument.

The present disc features three rather different sonatas by Mozart, two of them unusual in form as well. Though these works are often spoken of as violin sonatas, the idea of a sonata for violin with piano accompaniment had not yet developed. Mozart himself referred to them as duets for piano and violin, and in fact a contemporary appreciation of the sonatas speaks of “the violin accompaniment” in the pieces. As the notes to the present recording make clear, Mozart was actually breaking new ground in trying to give the violin an equal role in the sonatas, though the piano still mostly take initiative.

Of the three sonatas on this CD, the Sonata KV 306 is the most conventional but still a wonderful piece. The most striking feature for me is the development section of the bubbly first movement. It works up a motive based on the first theme with almost Beethovenian insistence, in echo fashion, the violin following the piano and building to near frenzy. The slow movement is serene, Olympian, while the rondo finale dances elegantly.

It’s mostly untroubled compared to KV 304, which the notes to this recording rightly, I think, identify as being in the tradition of Sturm und Drang. The dark and driven first melody is followed by a skipping second theme that seems bent on negating the mood of the opening—until the recapitulation, when the second melody, now in the home key of E minor, takes on a harried, hounded quality we couldn’t have imagined. The second movement is a melancholy minuet. Unusually, there is no third movement.

Just as unusual is KV 379, written three years later in 1781. It begins not with the typical sonata allegro movement but a yearning Adagio. This is followed attacca by a restless Allegro in the minor key, a uniquely unsmiling minuet. The third movement, in variations form, brings little relief; it is tinged with an abiding melancholy. This is music not of deep tragedy but of a prevailing disquiet that is just as moving.

Performances of Mozart violin sonatas on period instruments are becoming more frequent, but I believe the only direct competition to this SACD recording is Gary Cooper and Rachel Podger’s complete set of the sonatas on Channel Classics. However, you’d need to acquire several CDs in that series to get this particular selection. I’ve heard only snippets from the Channel Classics set, but the approach seems very similar to that of Nepomnyashchaya and Filchenko. The overall effect is robust and full-blooded. Gone are the bad old days of early-instrument performance practice, when gingerly pianism and tentative scratchy violin tone were the norm.

Award-winning harpsichordist and pianist Nepomnyashchaya has attended master classes with Trevor Pinnock, Bob van Asperen, and Malcolm Bilson and plays with the kind of authority you’d expect with that grounding. Violinist Filchencko is concertmaster of the Pratum Integrum Orchestra, which has been featured on some very fine recordings from Caro Mitis of Classical-era symphonies. He has a pure focused tone, proving an impressive and fully equal partner on the current disc.

Caro Mitis provides entirely lifelike sonics with a nice balance of immediacy and ambience. (The sound is sufficiently lifelike, in fact, to pick up some of the violinist’s sniffing and snuffing in KV 306.)

If you normally shy away from the fortepiano, a recording such as this might just change your mind. Today, it’s a brave new world for performances on authentic instruments.

- Lee Passarella




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